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The Tuesday Discussion – The Yogi Statistic That Defines His Greatness

This week we asked our writers:

In looking at the career of Yogi Berra, what one statistic demonstrates how great he was as a player?

Here are their responses:

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Paul Semendinger – The statistic that proves how great Yogi Berra was as a ballplayer is the fact that he earned MVP votes in every single full season in which he played. Yogi Berra won three Most Valuable Player Awards (which is extremely impressive). More impressive is the fact that he received MVP votes every single season from 1947 through 1961. From his age 22 to his age 36 season, Yogi was considered one of baseball’s most valuable players. That is amazing!

(In 1962, Yogi played in 86 games bringing this MVP vote streak to a close.)

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Mike Whiteman – Every year from 1950-1956 Berra finished among the top five in AL MVP voting, winning the award three times and finishing second twice. So, for seven years in a row, Yogi was recognized among the top five players in the American League. The only other players I found in baseball history to attain this: Lou Gehrig and Mike Trout.

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Lincoln Mitchell – t is not easy to find one statistic that captures the greatness of Yogi Berra. He was a complete player who contributed on an elite level both at and behind the plate. On of the hallmarks of his greatness was his consistency and durability as he caught more than 125 games in for seven consecutive seasons in which the Yankees won the pennant six times. However, the one statistic that struck me in reviewing the data was that Berra hit 358 home runs while striking out only 414 times. Berra played a time when strikeouts were not as common, but other sluggers of the era struck out much more frequently. HIs ability to hit with power while rarely striking out speaks to his extraordinary athleticism.

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Patrick Gunn – Two stats jump out to me when looking at Yogi Berra. He struck out in only 4.9% of his at-bats in his career. That’s an insanely low number and it defines him as a player. He ground out at-bats and found ways to put the ball in play. This feeds into my next point: Berra had a career BABIP of only .262 with a batting average of .285. Somehow, despite hitting .262 when he put the ball in play, he hit .285 for his career. This type of nonsensical stat feels like a Yogiism in it of itself. (source = fangraphs)

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Ed Botti – Great question about a great player and person.

I would give almost anything to have seen him play. Looking over his career that overflows with many records and insane statistics, its very diffiuct to narrow that down to just one. But I will go with the one personal statistic that impresses me maybe more than the others.

Yogi led American League catchers in home runs and RBI’s for nine straight seasons from 1949 to 1957, while only hitting under .270 (.251) once during that period.

Honorable Mentions

He threw out 49% of would-be base stealers

At 37 years old he caught all 22 innings of a game

He won 10 World Series as a player!!

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Michael Saffer – According to the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) the 1970s showed a consistent increase in stolen bases. In 1976 a collective increase in stolen bases was up by about 1,000 from three years earlier.

As a manager, Yogi Berra did not follow that trend. According to Baseball Reference, his stolen base rate of second base alone ranged between 3.2% and 7.3%. This was much lower than the league average of attempted stolen bases in that era. Perhaps as a former catcher Yogi erred on the side of caution when it came to stealing bases. This writer found Yogis low stolen base percent rate as a manager to be an interesting statistic.

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